New York City College of Technology
Sister act: Abigirl-Grace Adebanjo got interested in opticianry after sitting in on her own sister’s opticianry classes. She first was fitted with eyeglasses in high school and wanted to be in a position to “help people who needed glasses and might not be able to afford them,” she told VM.
She worked part time at a LensCrafters and volunteered with her doctor in the Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP), which helps students who don’t get accepted to regular schools due to their learning disabilities. She received a scholarship from Transitions Optical, and is involved with the New York State Society of Opticians.
Adebanjo will be pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in biology so she can fulfill her dream of going to optometry school. She is considering the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, or NOVA in Boston.
HER SCHOOL SAYS… “Whatever she undertakes, she does with enthusiasm and motivation. She’s always eager to learn and is self-motivated.”
Essex County College,
Encouraging words: Her husband’s cousin, who has been in the field for 30 years, kept mentioning opticianry to Jennifer Aquino. She decided it was a great opportunity and felt that getting back into the workforce with a real career would be a good idea.
While at school, Aquino was on the school’s advisory board, which is looking to turn the program into a four-year degree with an emphasis on education. She worked full time while studying, and also was in a 32-hour-a-week apprentice program. She also became involved in awareness for sports protective eyewear. “I noticed a lot of kids without proper eyewear on the field.”
Aquino works at Jan’s Optical in Oakhurst, N.J. and has joined the Opticians Association of N.J.
HER SCHOOL SAYS… “Jennifer maintained a 4.0 GPA while working full time and taking care of her family—a husband and three young boys.”
Middlesex Community College
Foot in the door: Amy Beckwith’s interest in opticianry began three years ago when she got a job working at the front desk for an eye doctor. “That job wasn’t enough for me. I got my certification to work in an optometry office, and then I went on to school to become an optician.”
While working full time, she went through the opticianry program and had an internship with one of her professors. She is a member of the Connecticut Board of Opticians, which puts together continuing education courses and does fundraising and lobbying for opticians.
Beckwith spoke with VM just minutes after finishing her Connecticut State Licensing exams, and is looking forward to working in specialized contact lens fitting. “I love it. I think a lot of people are in need and don’t think they have options.”
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “She is already both ABO and NCLE certified, and she has completed a fellowship in contact lenses with Professor Rene ‘Skip’ Rivard.”
Indiana University School of Optometry’s Optician/Technician Program
Keeping it in the family: Abigail Brooks likes the different facets of opticianry, and enjoys helping people. It helps that her brother-in-law is an optometrist and her brother is an ophthalmologist. “I love helping people pick out a pair of frames they will look good in.”
During her time in the opticianry program, she earned the Optician’s Laboratory Concentration Certificate, and during her second year she worked as a laboratory assistant in several courses; Anatomy & Physiology of the Eye, Ophthalmic Dispensing and Ophthalmic Lens Finishing.
After graduation, she will be joining the IU School of Optometry staff working as a lab teaching assistant in the Optician/Technician program and as an optician in the school’s eyewear centers.
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “She has been a positive role model for the entire class throughout her two years in the program, exhibiting professionalism, integrity, a positive attitude and great leadership.”
Roane State Community College
Early start: “I got interested in opticianry because I started wearing glasses at a young age—second grade. My prescription was a very high myopic,” said Jenny Freytag.
Earlier this year, Freytag was a finalist in HOYA’s Student to Leadership conference, and was sent to the OAA leadership conference, which gave her new insight into career possibilities. “There’s so much more to do besides dispensing eyewear.” While at school, she has worked as a volunteer at a remote area medical event in Tennessee, where she helped with eyewear fittings and using a lab on site to make glasses the same day for people without any local eyecare.
Freytag also received a scholarship to attend an education meeting of the CLSA, where she presented a paper on contact-lens hygiene. She is looking forward to learning more about contact-lens fitting, and would like to participate in more professional organizations.
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “Serving others inspired her to become an optician. She is a hard-working, dedicated student and a wonderful person.”
Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology
Bring your daughter to work: Julie Mann’s father has been in the optical business for years and she and her sister “grew up around it.” Her sister also went to the same opticianry program and loved it.
Throughout the school year, she worked on a joint program her school had with the New England College of Optometry, Ben’s Vision for Kids, where students make and dispense eyewear for inner city Boston children. “Many of these families have no health insurance, and unfortunately, many kids have never had their vision corrected.”
Mann would like to join the Opticians Association of Massachusetts, “Once I have more experience.” She is currently working at her father’s business, Highland Opticians in Newton Highlands, Mass.
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “Julie Mann came to us as an advanced student and was awarded one of our highest honors—the George Bourque Memorial Award and Scholarship, for having the highest GPA.”
Seattle Central Community College School of Opticianry
Changing course: After moving to Seattle six years ago, Milli Militi-Jigamian was having trouble finding work in publishing, where she spent her whole career. She did some research into recession-proof careers, and discovered optical.
Militi-Jigamian juggled going to school full time and raising two boys, but also worked in the industry at Eyes on Freemont in Seattle to fulfill her required co-op hours. “It was great working among the licensed opticians there,” she said. She has worked with VOSH to neutralize lenses and clean up eyewear that is being sent on overseas missions.
She has taken her NCLE exams and is ABO certified, and is taking her state boards in August. She is also a member of the Opticians Association of Washington. “I am very interested in the fashion of frames and working with people to match eyewear to patients.”
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “Milli was engaged in classes and has been a leader for outside activities. When our program needed publicity she got the word out—her activism helped our program become the first in the nation to convert from state-support to self-sufficiency.”
Fort Lauderdale, Fla.
Different slant: Ileana Nogueiras-Perez was working in the roofing business when she decided to look into the health care industry. After visiting Broward College and meeting the dean, “that ultimately convinced me,” to get into opticianry, she said.
She gained a lot of hands-on experience while taking her courses. The school has a clinic, and she also was sent to work as a volunteer at a health fair for Broward College employees, to CARE Incorporated to help lower-income patients, and to South Plantation School, to help a group of deaf students get their eyewear needs met. She is a member of the Professional Opticians of Florida, and before graduating, she was hired as an assistant manager for America’s Best Contacts and Eyeglasses in Davie, Fla.
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “Ileana was one of our top students. She excelled academically and professionally, demonstrating a high level of sales technique—she had the highest eyewear sales.”
Hillsborough Community College
Switching gears: After going to optometry school for a year, Vanisha Patel decided to change course and pursue opticianry instead. Her first exposure to the industry was in high school, where she completed a program in opticianry.
She was elected president of her college’s chapter of the Association for Professional Scholastic Opticians, for which she organized fundraisers and an end-of-year banquet. As a member of the Professional Opticians of Florida, she worked on a continuing education course for local opticians. Patel also did screenings on campus for faculty and staff, and in the community for lower-income families as part of a health fair. Patel works in a private optometry office. She is interested in doing more with contact lenses as a specialty.
HER SCHOOL SAYS... “Vanisha was an outstanding student. She was president of our student organization and was the recipient of the CLSA Student Scholarship Award.”
Raritan Valley Community College
Business decision: Dana Rooney was going to business school, had a two-year degree and was working for an optometrist who was opening her own optical store. “They offered me the opportunity to join them and they helped me go to opticianry school.”
At Raritan Valley Community College, Rooney was in charge of marketing the program’s optical clinic, publicizing it on campus and promoting optical awareness to students and faculty. She also helped her fellow students with hands-on experience.
Rooney works for Martha and Patrick Keelan at Keelan Eyecare in Brick, N.J., where “we see young and old. Dealing with the general public is something I like. I enjoy educating people on frame and lens selections.”
HER SCHOOL SAYS… “Dana embodies every attribute a professor would want to see. She was always fully engaged, in her skills, in her academics and in her clinical work.”